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After All-Night Meeting, A Plan To Save Euro


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. European countries are considering an agreement to commit to stronger fiscal regulation. But after an all-night meeting, Britain refuses to join the pack and several other countries are reluctant. The EU's summit in Brussels was one of the most crucial gatherings of its kind in years - a last ditch effort to stave off a global financial disaster. We'll look at whether the end result does anything to calm markets and end the crisis. First, this report from NPR's Philip Reeves, who spent the night at the summit.


PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Europe's leaders sweep into Brussels to make another attempt to avert disaster. They've come to hammer out a plan to end the eurozone crisis. There have been summits like this before, but the situation's only worsened. This time, though, Europe's most powerful figures arrive with a new air of urgency. Nurtured first in Greece, the eurozone crisis has toppled governments. It's collapsed banks. It's pushed two of Europe's biggest economies, Italy and Spain, to the brink, and now it's threatening Europe's most prosperous and stable core nations.

This summit's task is to try to restore the confidence of the markets and, says Anton La Guardia of the Economist, to try to save the euro as a currency.

ANTON LA GUARDIA: They created this vessel called the euro and set it out to sea, and it didn't have any lifeboats, and it didn't have any early warning systems, didn't have any radar, and you know, now it's sort of in a storm and it's about to sink and a lot of people are going to, you know, get hurt if it happens.

REEVES: The talks went through the night. At around 5:00 a.m. local time, looking exhausted, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared before the cameras.


REEVES: Sarkozy and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel came to this summit with a plan. It included tough new rules to compel the eurozone's 17 nations to keep their budgets in order. To make these rule enforceable, they wanted to change the treaty that underpins the larger European Union. That requires the agreement of all 27 EU members. They didn't get it.

HERMAN VAN ROMPUY: We therefore agreed on a new fiscal compact.

REEVES: Herman Van Rompuy is president of the European Council.

ROMPUY: It means we all commit to a new European strong fiscal rule. It means member states will transpose it into their constitution or equivalent. It means reinforcing our rules on excessive deficit procedure by making them more automatic. It also means that member states will have to submit their draft budgetary plans to the commission.

REEVES: All that was agreed by the great majority of EU leaders, even though those terms mean eurozone nations must surrender some national sovereignty. But there was a split thanks to Britain, which doesn't use the euro.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: Good morning every one. Sorry for keeping you up for quite so long.

REEVES: Under pressure from a growing anti-Europe lobby back home, Prime Minister David Cameron sought safeguards, exempting Britain's financial sector from new financial regulations. He didn't get them so he wouldn't play ball.

CAMERON: It's not easy when you're in a room with many other people who all want to press ahead, who all say forget about your safeguards, forget about your interests, let's all just sign up to this thing together. It's sometimes the right thing to say: I'm afraid I cannot do that, it's not in our national interest, I don't want to put that in front of my parliament because I don't think I could recommend it with a clear conscience. And so I am going to say no and I am going to exercise the veto. That is effectively what I did.

REEVES: An argument's already begun in Britain over whether Cameron's move means Britain will now be isolated and marginalized by a Europe that's being forced to become more integrated. Those nations that support the deal are now working on enshrining it in some kind of inter-governmental accord. Germany's Angela Merkel striking a positive note: she says the eurozone can now regain credibility. But none of those who worked through the night in Brussels will be in any doubt that more big hurdles lie ahead. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Brussels. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.